Question of the Day: Should We Teach Children How to Unload a Gun?

I reckon gun owners are letting non-gun owners control the gun safety message given to children. The emphasis is always on disabling the gun, keeping it away from children and telling them not to goddamn touch it. Before I argue for a different approach, here’s the usual advice from myoptumhealth.com that’s viraling around the net at the mo, boldface text and all . . .

Keeping firearms out of harm’s way

  • Never leave a loaded, unlocked gun in your house.
  • Lock and store your guns and ammunition separately. Be sure to hide the keys where children cannot find them.
  • Ask parents of your child’s playmates if they have any firearms and how they are stored. No one wants to pry into someone else’s household, but when it comes to the safety of your children, it’s not prying, it’s prudent.
  • Teach your children never to touch guns without adult supervision and to tell an adult right away if they find one. This is easier said than done because kids are naturally curious about firearms. Start warning your children when they are preschoolers. Even most 3- and 4-year-olds have enough strength to pull the trigger of a handgun.
  • Put trigger locks on all of your firearms. Gun safes, combination locks and magazine locks are some other choices for locking devices, experts say. Many accidental shootings could be prevented by a firearms safety device.
  • If you own a gun, go to your local gunsmith or sporting goods store for a locking device.Choose a sturdy metal lock, not plastic, experts say.

Let’s forget the strategic implications of not having a readily available firearm in the house. Is this a recipe for gun safety?

For a baby up to toddlerhood, gun safety is your responsibility—in the same sense that you have to keep the rug rats away from traffic or steep stairs. As soon as your sprogs start to walk, your gun safety awareness must increase dramatically. During this stage, by all means keep your guns well out of sight, locked in a safe.

When kids start walking, all hell breaks loose. They’re smarter. More curious (as pointed out above). More dextrous. And mobile. This is the age when their motor skills far exceed their mental abilities. They don’t know shit from Shinola, but they think they do. They’re still not to be trusted with sharp knives or, obviously, guns. But they’re naturally attracted to, well, everything. As soon as they get the whole conversation thing, or maybe before, it’s time to teach them that a gun is not a toy.

Which is exactly why the Eddy the Eagle “tell an adult” lesson is nonsense. There ARE toy guns. How does a young child differentiate between a real gun and a toy gun? Look for the orange tip? I don’t think so. Instructing kids “don’t touch a gun” and “always tell an adult when you find one” fails to address this identification problem. And the more a child is used to playing with guns, the more likely it is that they’ll play with a real gun, should they find one. Remember: they might find one outside your home.

The answer there: inculcate the basic safety rule for proper gun handling (yes handling) from the earliest possible age. Tell your kids never point any gun at anyone. Good luck with the NERF thing right? (Works in my house, but I’ve got girls.) So, at least teach them trigger discipline. Don’t touch the trigger until you’re ready to fire. And, part two, show them what a real gun looks like.

Let your kids get familiar with real guns, so they can identify one. Put toy guns and a real guns side by side and let your kids get hands-on experience picking out the lethal weapon. Throw in an Airsoft so they learn that they don’t always know what they think they know. This is, of course, an excellent time to re-enforce the concept of trigger discipline. Get them to handle BOTH toy and real gun as if they’re real.

It’s also a good time to tell them the other cardinal rule: treat all guns as if they’re loaded.

OMG! GET MY KDIS TO TOUCH A GUN? Yes. Obviously. In fact, once you’re done playing “One of these things is not like the other,” you should take them to the range and show them what a fired gun looks like, sounds like and can do. Scared straight (this could be your brother) or simple respect—how you couch it is up to you.

At the same time, I recommend teaching children how to check to see if a handgun, rifle or shotgun is loaded, and how to unload it. Here’s where the bullets go in, here’s how they can come out without firing them. Some kids don’t even know that such a thing is possible. And yet their lives could depend on this information.

Now I know that sounds way, way out there. But you have to remember that kids know other kids that are not your kids. And you didn’t teach those other kids about gun safety. It’s entirely possible no one taught them anything about gun safety, either. And so, while your child is saying “Dude, put that down” or “Don’t point that thing at me” or “Don’t touch it it may be loaded” (you hope), some dopey jerk is doing just that.

Better: “Hang on, let’s make sure it isn’t loaded.” That’s not PC. That’s not the optimum solution. But, dear readers, it’s the practical solution to a potentially fatal danger in our children’s lives. Anything less puts them at risk, both when they’re young and, as above, when they’re old enough to buy a gun. True?

comments

  1. avatar Wes says:

    Growing up, my dad had his guns on a wall rack in the living room, and a pistol or two on a shelf in a closet. I was shown pretty early to respect them, and saw what they were capable of on some tins cans and things. Ammo was on top of the fridge.

    Was I ever curious about playing with guns when my dad wasn't around? (Or even when he was?) Not really, because my curiosity was already satisfied. I had already held them, already shot them. It might be for that reason that I rarely even cared to shoot them. "Been there, done that," y'know?

    Same with beer, btw. While fellow classmates at my grade school discovered alcohol around age 10-12 and were getting drunk when they could, my dad had already told me I could have one if I asked. I asked him one time, didn't care for it, and never had another one until about 13 years later. There's less peer pressure and "excitement" when you know you can just do those things anytime you want at home if you ask.

    My point? I hope it's obvious. Parents who shield their children from the real world may be doing more harm than good. If your child is likely going to become curious about certain things anyway, it's probably better if they do it under parent supervision instead of behind your back. Curiosity will be satisfied, they will have learned something, gained some responsibility, gained some trust in you, the "forbidden fruit" aspect will be gone, and hopefully they will use all that to make good choices when you aren't around.

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